Before Child Labor Laws

Before Child Labor Laws

Q:  I’m so proud of my entrepreneur  14 year old.   He found himself a job working for our neighbor who owns a power-washing  business.  He plans to work after school and on weekends.  My only concern is that the work sometimes involves climbing tall ladders and I worry about safety.  Are there certain precautions that specifically apply to young workers?

 A:  Kudos for raising an entrepreneur!  And yes, there are laws that protect employees who are minors. One of the many good things to come out of child labor laws over a century ago is that there are limitations on the types of occupations minors can perform and the number of hours they’re allowed to work.  All of us have seen those black and white photographs of children with soot-covered faces from shoveling coals into a hot furnace.  Luckily that’s all behind us.

The current law includes limits on hours.  For instance, because your son is 14 your neighbor will only be able to have him work :

  • Outside of school hours;
  • 3 hours on school days
  • 8 hours on nonschool days;
  • 18 hours/wk while school is in session;
  • 40 hours/wk when school is not in session.

None of these hour  limitations should present a barrier for him.

However, where I do foresee a problem is that the type of occupation (or tasks) he’ll have to perform may be deemed by the law to be hazardous to “his health or well-being.”

For example the law says that 14 year-olds, may not be employed in “work involving the operation or tending of any power-driven machinery (except office machinery).” In my opinion, this would include power washers .  So this is a task your son should not  be allowed to perform.

The law also prohibits “work involving the use of ladders or scaffolding.”  Bonus trivia point–  “With the exception of properly certified 15-year- old lifeguards who may use a ladder to access and descend from the lifeguard chair.”

I’m sorry to be a wet blanket about your son’s job prospects, but unless he can stay off ladders and away from operating the power washers , I don’t think this gig is a good fit for him.

Could they perhaps use him a gopher?  They could even just pay him a youth wage of $4.25/hr….. More on that next week.

©Copyright Eva Del Rio

Eva Del Rio is creator of HR Box™ – tools for small businesses and startups. Send questions to

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